Since 2004, Embracing Our Differences has used the power of art and prose to promote diversity. One way it accomplishes this is through its annual, juried international outdoor art exhibition consisting of 50 billboard-sized works of art, each accompanied by an inspirational quote. The response to the call for artwork and inspirational quotes brought 15,912 entries pouring in from 128 countries and 48 states. Students from 412 schools around the world submitted artwork or quotes to the juried exhibit. The winning quotes and art will be showcased in the 18th annual exhibit, Jan. 20 through April 1, in Sarasota’s Bayfront Park, 5 Bayfront Drive, Sarasota.

For more information about this free exhibit or Embracing Our Differences, call 941-404-5710 or visit A gallery of all the winning artwork and quotes can be viewed at

Sarah Wertheimer, Embracing Our Differences’ executive director, says she and EOD’s art selection committee were inspired by the substantial number of works they received this year.

“Embracing our Differences exists to proclaim the values of inclusion, kindness and respect and we were moved to see that thousands of people around the world share these values,” says Wertheimer. “More than ever, their art and words confirm that we need to replace hostility and division with a respect for diversity. We need to honor the things that make us different and celebrate the things we have in common.”

Wertheimer explains that the selection committee considers how well the core idea of the work is expressed and how the piece will work when blown up to the size of a billboard. “It needs to make an immediate impact,” she says. “Does the message encourage me to think? Does it inspire me to see something from a new perspective? Does the art itself stop me in my path? These are some of the reactions we’re hoping to inspire in the viewer.”

Awards are given for “Best-in-Show Adult,” “Best-in-Show Student” and “People’s Choice” categories, with the last chosen by visitors to the exhibit. Adult art winners each receive $1,000; students receive $1,000, which they split with their school’s art program. The person who pens the winning quote is awarded $1,000 and if that winner is a student, the award is split evenly with their school’s language arts program.


The Best-in-Show Adult winner for art is for “Liberty Enlightening the World” by Arya Badiyan, an artist, poet, writer, community builder and entrepreneur from Lake Oswego, Oregon. In this bold and striking work, the artist explains that “Lady Liberty is a Black woman who stands before the millions of Black lives that have been lost to slavery and injustice in this country. She is lighting the way and leading us forward.” Badiyan will receive $1,000 for her work.

Emily Norris, a 7th grade student from Sarasota Middle School, won the Best-in-Show Student award for “Small Struggles,” a work depicting a girl of color standing in front of an aisle of dolls that are white with blonde hair. “To me, the concept of ‘embracing our differences’ means showing off what’s unique about yourself,” says Norris. “Through my work, I attempt to highlight the little struggles people of color go through every day.” Norris will split the $1,000 award with her school’s art program.


The award for the Best-in-Show inspirational quote was given to Temilola Aderemi from Ibafo, Nigeria, for: “If we were to exchange shoes, would you be willing to wear mine?”

Wertheimer stresses the importance of the statements accompanying each artwork. “Every quote opens a window into our common humanity,” she says. “They touch us with their wit, insight and empathy.”

Embracing Our Differences’ annual outdoor exhibits are the heart of a year-round program of activities designed to use art as a catalyst to create awareness and promote diversity.

For more information about Embracing Our Differences, call 941-404-5710 or visit

Embracing Our Differences is a not-for-profit organization that uses the transformational power of art and education to celebrate and promote the diversity of the human family. It accomplishes this through an annual, large-scale outdoor juried art exhibition and a comprehensive series of educational initiatives, programs and resources designed for teachers and students.


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